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Key priorities for the immigration system

The Immigration Law Section of the CBA reaches out to three new federal ministers.

Parliament

Canadians now have some sense of how the new government plans to deliver on its electoral promises following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointment of a new cabinet in October, and the Speech from the Throne in November. After careful review of the government’s intentions, the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association has written to key ministers to bring to their attention key priorities for the immigration bar.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought sweeping changes to Canada’s immigration system, many of which have raised serious concerns for our members and the people we represent,” the Section writes. “We believe there is now a significant opportunity to improve a system that is vital to Canada.”

The letter addressed to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser, the Section highlights several priorities, in particular the regulation of immigration consultants under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, improvements in processing times, timely response to the situation in Afghanistan and ensuring the right to counsel in application processing is respected.

In his mandate letter from the prime minister, Minister Fraser is tasked with “reducing application processing times, especially those impacted by COVID-19.” As well, he is instructed to “act with urgency to provide resettlement opportunities for people under threat, including Afghan citizens and human rights defenders.”

In its missive to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, the Section says one way to help deal with widespread labour shortages would be to ensure the Temporary Foreign Worker Program responds to regional needs, and to move forward with a Recognized Employer Initiative.

In Minister Qualtrough’s mandate letter from the prime minister, published in late December, those two issues are mentioned. Specifically, she is instructed to work with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship “to establish a Trusted Employer system for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers” and to work with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to develop “a sector-specific Agricultural Labour Strategy to address persistent and chronic labour shortages in farming and food processing in the short and long term.”

And finally, the Section wrote to Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino, reminding him of previously shared CBA priorities on COVID-19 and irregular asylum seekers, as well as reiterating Section members’ dedication “to counselling clients in the context of evolving travel restrictions and the just treatment of refugee claimants at ports of entry and along the US border.”

Overall, the Section remains “encouraged and hopeful” that the government is committed to address issues of mutual concern and looks forward to working with the new ministers and their officials “to convey the perspective of the legal profession.”